Dean Steve Matson with Three Minute Thesis awardees Patrick Lang, Shannon Blakey and Nancy Quick

Dean Steve Matson with, left to right, Three Minute Thesis awardees Patrick Lang, Shannon Blakey and Nancy Quick

Ten graduate students from a wide variety of academic disciplines waited to present their research. The auditorium was packed. The timer was set before each presentation: three minutes – maximum. No props, except for one slide per speaker.

This was UNC-Chapel Hill’s second annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition, held Nov. 1, 2016. Patrick Lang, a doctoral student in cell biology and physiology, won the competition and advances to the March 2017 regional competition in Annapolis, Md.

Lang, whose topic was “Improving the treatment of childhood brain cancer,” received a plaque and $1,000, as well as travel expenses to the regionals.

Shannon Blakey, a doctoral student in psychology and neuroscience, was the second-place winner and received a plaque and $600. Her topic was “The harm of just in case: the paradoxical effect of safety aids on anxiety.” Nancy Quick, a doctoral student in speech and hearing sciences, was the people’s choice winner (selected by the audience) and received a plaque and $400. Her topic was “A multi-linguistic analysis of spelling errors.”

A panel of judges assessed finalists on criteria related to comprehension, content, engagement and communication.

“Through the preliminary and final rounds, audience members learned about strong graduate student research that is making a difference in our state and beyond,” said Steve Matson, dean of The Graduate School. “I’m inspired by the enthusiasm and creativity that all of our participants brought to the challenge of presenting their research in this way. I thank all of the students who participated, and I congratulate Patrick on advancing to the regionals.”

Lang said the 3MT was “a fantastic opportunity to hear about some of the exciting work being done by UNC’s outstanding graduate and professional students from all across campus.”

He added: “Research is increasingly becoming multidisciplinary and it is important to develop a familiarity with the investigations outside of one’s own field and to appreciate how such investigations could complement one’s own work. I am honored to have participated in this competition and feel grateful for all that I have learned about a diversity of topics.”

The University’s 3MT, now in its second year, is sponsored by The Graduate School. It’s an international phenomenon: The University of Queensland developed the event in 2008, and it is now held in more than 350 universities in 18-plus countries around the world.